During Natural Products Expo West, I participated as a speaker in one of the education sessions, Messaging Beyond the Media: Using Influencers to Tell Your Story. The session was packed with brands and retailers interested in how they can create or optimize their outreach efforts with industry influencers to scale their reach to both end-user consumers and industry.
Some of the major take-aways included:
There are many different types of influencers. Influencers can be individuals, organizations, industry partners or other like-minded brands. While many people automatically think of bloggers, there are several others who can also influence the masses or specific communities, including: authors, professors, experts, speakers/trainers, doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, advocates, celebrities, activists, third party certifiers, non-profits, etc.
Identify all the various communities your products or services can resonate with. One of the first things I do with a new client is help them identify all the different consumer and business communities they should be reaching—from special diets and lifestyles to different cultures and life stages. For example, a healthy kids snack that is gluten free, organic and vegetarian would certainly want to reach the celiac/gluten free, organic and health-conscious mom and parents communities.
Having direct, in-person relationships with influencers is a must. I sometimes hear people say, "We follow that blogger on social media." Following influencers on Twitter is not quite the same as meeting with them in person and establishing a real, mutually beneficial connection.
Working with influencers can take a lot of time. Ideally I like for clients to have at least two to three close relationships with some of the most prominent influencers in each of the communities they are able to resonate with. Having a relationship is one thing; working directly with one another is certainly more involved. Partnering with even one to two influencers—determining how to best work together, managing what the influencers produce and then effectively promoting it, can seem like a full-time job and often requires the expertise and experience from a PR pro.
For a current, real-world example, have a look at how Stonyfield Farms is collaborating with an influencer, Sally Kuzemchak. Sally is a registered dietitian, educator and mom. She is also an author and blogger, and is active on social media. Sally and her audience seem to be a perfect fit for the Stonyfield brand, which is keen to connect with health-conscious moms.
Does your company successfully leverage the reach of influencers? Who do you think is doing a good job of working with influencers? Tweet your feedback to me at @LisaMabe or comment below to let me know your thoughts.